The setting of The Giver by Lois Lowry is both familiar and strange. The time is the future. There are family groups, each with a boy and a girl. The adults work. The children go to school. But, people have made changes in how society operates since our time. As we first encounter the characters in the story, we think that they live in a utopia. There is a sense that their way of living is better than that of communities that are far from them historically or geographically.
Jonas, the protagonist, is an eleven year-old boy at the beginning of the book. He has blue eyes. He is awaiting an important milestone in December when he and all the other Elevens will find out what their future jobs will be and will begin preparing for their new assignments. He receives a very special job assignment. He is to become the Receiver, the only one besides the Giver who has Memories.
After he begins receiving the memories, Jonas changes. He seems to become
more intelligent. He does not accept the ways of the community as easily
as he did in the past before he was the Receiver.
The Giver, known in the community as the Receiver of Memory, already knows what Jonas will discover. He is troubled by what he knows. He believes that the community would be better able to live wisely if everyone had the Memories, even though some of the memories would be painful for them as they are for him. Like Jonas, the Giver does not approve of much that he knows about the community. However, he seems resigned to living with his inability to change it.
Jonas's father is a Nurturer, a job that fits his personality. He cares for infants in their first year of life. He, like the rest of the community, has no memories. He lives the way that the community rules dictate. He does not believe in love, but does seem to exhibit it at times nonetheless.
Jonas's mother does what is required of her in her assigned job and in her role as mother to Jonas and Lily. As with the other women in the other family groups, she is not the natural mother to the children in her home.
Lily, Jonas's sister, is a Seven when Jonas is an Eleven. She becomes an Eight in the December ceremony when Jonas becomes a Twelve.
Gabriel is one of the babies that Jonas's father nurtures. The other babies that Jonas's father nurtures do not have names yet. But, hoping to help him to thrive by calling him by name, Jonas's father finds out what name is planned for him at the Naming Ceremony and begins to use it. Gabriel becomes especially close to Jonas.
Asher is Jonas's best friend. He has difficulty always using the correct words when he speaks. Using precisely the right word is an important ability for community members.
Fiona is Jonas's friend. She has red hair. The job that she is assigned is as a Caretaker in the House of the Old. She is in a dream that Jonas has as he matures.
Larissa is an old woman in the House of the Old. She looks forward to her Release.
The Chief Elder
The Chief Elder is the person whose job it is to announce the assignments of the Twelves.